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October 16th, 2006
Mon, Oct. 16th, 2006 03:59 pm

Friday: Another London day. Hisae and I are staying at a big white shabby building (all chopped about inside into dead corridors and blind fire doors) near the Freud Museum. Just up the hill -- protected from the peace-is-war traffic thundering down the Finchley Road by a lottery-money glass wall -- is the Camden Arts Centre. Here we see Laura Owens' reassuringly bijou-eco paintings of animals, trees and flowers. But much better is Edwina Ashton's video "At Last, the Postman". "This is what the Pictoplasma Conference should have been like," I whisper to Hisae as we lie back on beanbags watching poignant portraits of giant felt animals sitting in neglected nissen huts. Actually, it's pretty reminiscent of the Fischli and Weiss film we saw at the Tate on Thursday. Same sort of anthropomorphised animal protagonists, same odd endearing atmosphere.

The Frieze Art Fair is like an airport, but instead of crappy perfume and electronics stores there are stalls with art in them. Clasping my press pack proudly to my chest and snubbing the foppy Jay Jopling (actually he doesn't know me from Adam), I pass through the turnstiles with the same rush of excitement others probably get at big sporting events. Beyond is a maze of white boxes, each popping with poised, preppy gallerists from all over the world. One of the first I see is Jeffrey from Ishii Gallery in Tokyo. Jeffrey married my old Tokyo flatmate Misako Niida, and tells me she's about to open her own gallery in a non-arty (but low rent) area a couple of stops up the line from Ikebukuro. Apparently there are some new Tokyo galleries, like Roppongi's Magical Art Room, a project started by Hiromi Yoshi Gallery and the critic Kintaro Ishihara. Magical Art Room is a space for psychedelia-influenced artists, and Ishii has a performance room called Magical Art Room Question Mark? for the same people. Jeffrey also likes Takefloor, Takezaki Kazuyuke's little Ebisu apartment, which doubles as a gallery.

The rest of the fair passes in a blur -- the main thing is just the struggle to see it all. In fact, the junior overspill fair, the Zoo Art Fair, is much better. And it's nice to see Detmar Blow there, in with the the kids (Blow de la Barra, the gallery I had my Whispering piece in this summer, is too young to qualify for Frieze). And the nice thing about the Zoo Fair is that it's literally in the zoo, so you can look at animals afterwards. Hisae and I head for the children's zoo and converse with the alpacas. And after all the art, it's impossible not to think the new monkey cages in the camel house are some kind of "installation".

Soho, the Blue Room cafe. Then down to Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel for a really great opening at the Fieldgate Gallery, Fast and Loose (My Dead Gallery), organized by Centre of Attention. Amongst lots of other 1960s and 70s British art, this huge show resurrects David David Critchley's Pieces I Never Did. I thought it had been destroyed, but a suitably distressed copy was playing in an alcove at Fieldgate Street. CoA's Gary O'Dwyer comes up to me and asks if I'm going to give an unreliable tour of the show, but I'm too impressed to mock anything here.

The evening ends at Bistrotheque, out in Hackney, where I meet Susanne from No Bra and actually get to hear her perform "Doherfuckher" in the flesh. It's powerful stuff, as she stands there baring her frigid poitrine in the most mannish way imagineable. There's also a performance from Bishi, who's a young Bengali singer obsessed by cabaret and circus songs. Wearing a tiny hat she plucks at a small mandolin, and it all feels very like the Tiger Lilies shows I used to go to. Somehow London feels more Berlin, sometimes, than Berlin itself does.

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